Week 1: Aesthetic-Usabilty Effect

Discussion and reading for week 1 text – Aesthetic Usability Effect

Aesthetic-Usability Effect: Q2 Examples

The Aesthetic-Usability Effect, as defined by Butler, Holden & Lidwell (2003) is a concept in which more attractive things are deemed easier to use, despite the fact that they may or not be. The following are examples of this phenomenon.


  1. Facebook


Facebook is a primary example of the Aesthetic-Usability Effect. It features a basic layout and design compared to various other social networking websites. Although it looks simple and appealing, it does contain lots of bugs and glitches. Changing privacy settings and reading fine print can also be quite complex.

Yet despite these issues Facebook has managed to reel in 1 441 000 users (Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 1st quarter 2015 (in millions), 2015), proving that aesthetics and design are vital in web design. Although Facebook’s design may not be completely appealing to all users, it does feature a neutral colour scheme and basic layout, which is aimed at appealing to a wide range of visitors.


  1. Glass Fences

Glass Fence

Figure 1.


Glass fences are extremely visually appealing. They are sleek, streamlined and are not an eyesore on an otherwise aesthetically appealing environment. However they are not as efficient as traditional fencing methods, such as steal or cast iron. They are easily broken and offer no protection from possible crime or intruders. They are also not cost effective, due to the cost of replacing a broken sheet of glass and present a safety issue, as broken or damaged glass can be abrasive or cause cuts. Despite this glass fences are a popular fencing option being utilised in residential areas.


  1. iPhones


Figure 2.


iPhones are designed to be visually appealing and recognisable. The appeal in purchasing an iPhone comes not from the technical specifications, which should of the utmost importance, but from the brand itself. Users overlook functional flaws, glitches, software and technological issues because of the sleek design and accessibility. There are many phones on the market that have much better technological specifications or features that would better suit their individual needs, but consumers prefer the design and aesthetics of the iPhone to tech loaded, less appealing phones.




Butler, J., Holden, K., & Lidwell, W. (2003). Aesthetic‐Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of                   Design (pp. 18‐19). Massachusetts: Rockport

Figure 1. Glass Fence (n.d). In Mt Barker Glass [Digital Image]. Retrieved May 30, from                                    http://mtbarkerglass.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/pool1.jpg

Figure 2. iPhones (n.d). In Apple Store [Digital Image]. Retrieved May 30, from

 http://store.storeimages.cdn-apple.com/8363/as-                                                           images.apple.com/is/image/AppleInc/aos/published/images/i/ph/iphone5s/selection/iphone5s-selection-hero-2013?wid=300&hei=300&fmt=png-alpha&qlt=95&.v=1410265309801

Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 1st quarter 2015 (in millions). (2015).                      2015, from http://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-                              facebook-users-worldwide/


Aesthetic-Usability Effect – Q1 Summary

The Aesthetic-Usability Principle is a concept in which more attractive things are viewed as simpler to use, whether they are or not. This principle is evident in more than just in the digital world, as more aesthetically pleasing objects, such as people or cars, are often more desirable than their less attractive counterparts.

Aesthetics play a major role in the design of digital and print communication (Liua, Schmidta & Sridharan, 2009). If a user views a certain design as simpler to use and navigate, they are obviously more likely to use that medium or page, and as such it is vital that the aesthetics of a design are appealing. Designs that are more visually stimulating and pleasing can create improved emotional relationships between the user and the medium (Fishwick, 2006). Aside from aesthetically appealing information being more likely to be used, as described by the Aesthetic-Usability Principle, it is also easier to read and navigate, leading to more efficient information transfer (Thyssen, 2010).


In order to make a design more aesthetically pleasing:

  • Use basic graphics: Too much visual stimuli can confuse the eye.
  • Visuals: Photographs and illustrations give the eyes an area to rest.
  • Tailor the design to a specific audience: Know your audience and design according to their needs and likes (Laura, 2013).


Butler, Holden and Lidwell’s (2003) article on the Aesthetic-Usability Effect emphasises the need for aesthetic design and the emotional repercussions that positive aesthetic designs can have. It explains tangible examples which make the concept easier to understand and recognise in everyday life. Though the article references the original works on which the principle is based, expansive research and studies are not cited, which reduces its credibility.  The title of the principle is coined in this article also, which is said to not appear in the original research or further studies. This makes it increasingly difficult to search for further information, as there is no universal term to describe the phenomenon.




Butler, J., Holden, K., & Lidwell, W. (2003). Aesthetic‐Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of                    Design (pp. 18‐19). Massachusetts: Rockport

Fishwick, Paul A. (2006). Aesthetic Computing. USA: MIT Press.

Laura. (2013). The Aesthetic Usability Effect – It’s Design Magic!   , 2015,     from                                                  http://www.captovate.com.au/blog/aesthetic-usability-effect-its-design-magic

Liua, Y., Schmidta, K. E., & Sridharan, S. (2009). Webpage aesthetics, performance and usability:                     Design variables and their effects. Ergonomics, 52(6), 631-643.

Thyssen, O. (2010). Aethetic Communication. UK: Palgrave Macmillan.